The rich health benefits enjoyed by workers in the public sector are becoming an increasingly inviting target as cities, counties and school districts struggle with continual budget deficits.
The numbers explain why:
The Milwaukee Public Schools district spends as much as $26,846 a year to provide family coverage for a teacher. The City of Milwaukee spends a bit less than $21,000, and Milwaukee County spends $17,800 to $19,400. The state’s cost is slightly less than $20,000 a year for employees in the Milwaukee area.
That’s after subtracting the employee’s share of the premium, which can range from nothing to $2,160 a year.
In contrast, family coverage from private and public employers costs $13,770 on average nationally and workers on average pay nearly $4,000 of that.
Several forces contribute to the gap between public and private sectors. For one, state law prohibits many public employees from striking and that prohibition comes at a price of ensuring fairness for those employees. In addition, many public workers accept lower salaries in exchange for generous health care benefits.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, each have proposals to lower health benefit costs.